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Saturday, 22 October 2011


An Italian tomato and bread salad

After a little hiatus, I am back again with another guest blogger, my amazing Mum. As you will notice, I have been sitting on this for a while, for no other reason than my disorganization.  This was made in the middle of our lovely little heatwave in September, just nearing the end of the tomato and pepper season.  One of the things that I am so incredibly grateful for is that my parents always have interesting things growing in the garden, teaching me from an early age the importance of seasonality, and how much better things taste when you grow them yourself. Every year there always seems to be one thing that grows really well, and we find ourselves scratching our heads trying to work out with the bounty, and sending every guest home with a bag of some home grown veg. this year we had incredible tomatoes and peppers, and this recipe is the perfect showcase for them.  Even though the key ingredients aren’t in season anymore this salad is sooo good – I’m going to recommend that you make it anyway, right now.

Panzanella for me seems to symbolize summertime.  I have noticed over the past few years that over the summer every tv chef will do a recipe for a panzanella, and yet it was only this year that I tried it for myself.  What is so wonderful about it is its simplicity – Nikki Segnit suggests a version with brussel sprouts – shudder and walk away slowly.  Wikipedia describes it as “a Florentine salad of bread and tomatoes popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. The 16th-century artist and poet Bronzino sings the praises of onions with oil and vinegar served with toast and, and is often interpreted as a description of panzanella.

And so now for the recipe, thanks Mum.

I was pondering what to make for supper when I remembered having made this salad fairly recently and thought it would be good for dinner. For the life of me I couldn’t remember what I had done, but of course Miriam the gastronaut did. So I duly bought the ingredients that I didn’t already have, even braving Asda on a Sunday afternoon, such was my craving.
This is a particularly great dish for this time of the year (mid-September) as having had a very bountiful season in the greenhouse I have loads of delicious home grown tomatoes and peppers.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter)

* The equivalent of one smallish loaf of bread, (stale is fine, good way of using up old bread)
* 7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
* 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
* 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
* 6-8 tomatoes (the better the tomatoes, the better the salad!)
* 2 small or 1 large pepper any colour except green
* 2 crushed cloves of garlic
* A generous scattering of black olives
* A handful of drained and rinsed capers
* A well-drained can of anchovies, separated into fillets
* Handful of basil, preferably just picked from the plant on the windowsill

Cut up the bread into chunks, if it isn’t stale toast it in a hot oven for 10 mins or so. Don’t walk away and leave it as I did and nearly destroyed it! Put the dry bread into a flat dish large enough to take it in one layer. Mix the garlic with the oil and vinegar and sprinkle this concoction over the bread. Season to taste and toss it all gently together.

Blanch the tomatoes with boiling water and then remove the skins. Take out the seeds and put these together with any juices running all over your chopping board on the bread. Roughly chop the tomatoes and put in another bowl. Grill the peppers under a high heat to make the skins blacken and blister, turn them regularly to ensure an all over char. When they are done put them in a bag and leave them to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, the skins should easily peel off. Then cut open the peppers, discard the seeds and slice them up. Make sure you capture any juices and tip these on to the bread. The peppers can then go into the same bowl as the tomatoes.

Then gently mix the bread and everything else (not the basil). Depending on how organised/hungry you are now cling film it and leave it for an hour to marinate at room temperature. I am waging war against people who serve this sort of thing straight from the fridge - don’t it kills the flavour. Put the basil on just before you eat it. Enjoy!
By the way used up the leftovers the following day, broke an egg on the top and nuked it in the microwave until the egg was just set. Yummy, like an instant shakshuka.

Produce from the Lewis garden 2011 - peppers, tomatoes and chillis

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